Wednesday, March 30, 2016
The Cottage Cooking Club - March Recipes
The month of March marks the twenty-third month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Everyday Veg".
One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and seasonal produce as is sensible.
This month I prepared six of the ten designated recipes. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.
My first recipe for this March post is the Dressed Puy lentils (page 237) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“. We are a lentil loving nation and I have had a lot of fun trying out different types of lentils lately – after all, 2016 is also the International Year of the Pulses (for more info, please go here).
After reviewing the contents of my cupboard, I noticed that I was out of Puy lentils – they tend to be a bit hard to find around here and I should really make a habit of stocking them. But I did stock up on one of my other favorite lentils, the utterly delicious and very elegant looking black Beluga lentils. Aptly named Beluga lentils, these beauties look like little beads of caviar. Not only do they cook quickly, but they also hold their shape during cooking.
What´s not to love about these black lentils in a salad with fresh spring greens and a simple dressing of olive oil, Dijon mustard, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and let´s not forget some local cider vinegar. There is an apple orchard not far from our home and they produce a lovely apple cider – all bottled in some very pretty glass bottles and adorned with a nice vintage logo. It tastes likes apples, smooth and a bit sweet – a perfect combination with the nutty taste of the lentils.
My second recipe this month is the Roasted new potatoes with harissa (page 225) from the chapter „Bready Things“. Although I am quite aware of the fact that the sweet potato is a root vegetable that resembles a potato, and although it is quite different in taste and texture and is not related to the potato - the new potatoes in this recipe had to make room for sweet potatoes instead – I had this vision in my head of roasted orange fleshed potatoes, blissfully caramelized with harissa - for this recipe I used the dry version of the popular North African spice mix. A harissa spice mix usually contains cumin seed, coriander seed, dried chilli, smoked paprika, sea salt, and caraway seeds. Since Mr. Whittingstall did not specify wether he means the harissa paste or the harissa spice mix, I to chose to use the later, as it made more sense when roasting veggies with it.
The potoes were gone in a flash – this is a recipe I will most definitely make again with new potatoes as well as sweet potatoes. We enjoyed the harissa-roasted sweet potoes plain, no dip, but I might go for a nice feta dip with new potatoes next time I make this wonderful recipe.
The third recipe in March is the The vegiflette toastie (page 206) from the chapter „Bready Things“.
I love this recipe – I used my French Purple Potatoes. I was, of course, just waiting for another opportunity to show off my exquisite spuds. They have a rich, somewhat chestnutty taste and a dry floury texture which makes these ideal for adding them to a rich toastie treat like this one. Together with roasted spring onions and some wild garlic as well as Gorgonzola dolce, this is a true treat indeed. And as an added bonus their lovely violet color is retained during the cooking process.
The fourth recipe in March is the Potato dauphinoise (page 60) from the chapter „Comfort Food & Feasts“.
I will admit to being a potato gratin addict – I have made so many of them and I still cannot get enough of them. Ever. Sometimes I will mix different kinds of potatoes. Sometimes I will mix the thinly sliced potatoes with other veggies. Sometimes I will use homemade broth and for extra flavor, lots of fresh thyme from the garden. Sometimes I go for the creamy, decadent version like this one…but I will never add cheese to a potato gratin as the starch from the potatoes works its magic without the help from cheese.
There is not much to say about gratins other than that they are utterly amazing – this one from Hugh is no exceptuion. With loads of butter, double cream, garlic, freshly grated nutmeg, black pepper and salt who would not want to indulge every once in a while…it was Easter after all and I always serve potato gratin at this time of year alonside some lovely lamb roast. Bliss on a plate.
The fifth recipe that cought my attention this month is the Dhal (page 238) from the chapter „Pasta & Rice“.
That, on the other hand, is a recipe that I had never prepared before. This recipe calls for red lentils – easily found in stores around here. As opposed to the Beluga lentils that hold their shape during cooking, red lentils disintegrate into a thick, dry, yellowish purée when cooked. They rae best used for soups and spicy Indian dhals.
Hugh´s recipe is rather easy to prepare with ingredients I always have at home. Other than the lentils, you need only turmeric, salt, sunflower oil, cumin and an onion.
While we enjoyed this, I will make sure to prepare the Biryani alonside next time like I was planning to in the first place. For me a Dhal like this one makes for a great appetizer with a bit of a seasonal green salad alongside.
The sixth recipe is the Nachos with refried beans (page 190) from the chapter „Bready Things“.
This is a fun dish I expressely made for the younger crowds. I remember how much they enjoyed the Refried bean foldovers when we made them back in February 2015 - if you are curious to know how that dish looked liked, please go here.
The Nachos with refried beans is one easy, crowd-pleaser of a recipe with but a few staple ingredients such as tomatoes, cannellini beans, Spanish smoked paprika, onion, garlic etc.
Served with sour cream, sliced avocados, red onions and my baked corn tortilla chips – this is one recipe that I will return to many times. If you prefer an extra kick here - make sure to use the spicy version of the Spanish smoked paprika here and make sure it is the real thing from a trusted spice merchant. I love the depth of flavor from the paprika called "Pimentón de La Vera El Caballo de Oros" de (here). - just had to mention that fancy name.
In summary, we loved each and every dish this month - the kids were pleased as punch with the Nachos with refried beans, the Sweet potatoes with harissa and the Potato gratin but also enjoyed the other recipes quite a bit. We enjoyed all six recipes but loved the Dressed Beluga lentils and the Vegiflette toastie the most. Happy all around again. Th eonly regret I have is having been able to more of the recipes this month.
Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure - we will be moving on to more of Hugh´s cookbook in May!
To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.